When I was growing up in the '60s, most of my generation took it for granted that Israel had a right to exist. Today's youngsters, however, are bombarded by BDS propaganda and an unfriendly media. Many students, even those who receive a solid Jewish education in a Jewish day school or afternoon school, are confused. Is it possible that the Jews don't have a right to their own country?
The JconnecT online Hebrew School program addressed this issue head-on in its pre-Pesach session this year. The class is comprised of pre-teen and teenaged students from across North America who learn about Judaism and Israel online from their own homes. During the last session before Passover break the students discussed what it means to be free, what it means to lack freedom, and how that relates to the rights of the Jewish people to establish and run their Jewish State.
To begin the class the students were asked to comment on what it means to be free and what it means to NOT be free. The instructor guided the discussion as the youngsters reviewed Jewish history via audio and visual sources relating to the historical Jewish experience.
One of the advantages involved in presenting activities online is that every student can participate at all times. Interactions between the students are encouraged to enable the students to work on various projects and materials collaboratively and engage freely without disturbing the progression of the lesson. In this class the students divided into groups to complete a PPT that examined some of the reasons that a Jewish State was – and is – vital to the Jewish people.
Students worked in pairs as they examined different subjects including anti-semitism, the Jews' historical reliance on governments and powers for protection, and Jewish religious identity as they relate to the need for a Jewish nation. Following the independent work, the students reconvened as a group to present their findings. Student comments included a review of the need for Jewish self-defense in the wake of the unwillingness of world powers to protect the Jews under attack, the need for a safe and supportive environment where Jews can practice their religion, and the importance of the Zionist philosophy that gives Jews the right to fulfill the commandment of living in their own land.
The students then viewed a historical film clip of the 1947 UN vote that authorized the establishment of the State of Israel. The students were moved by the film and expressed their amazement that so many countries stood by the Jewish nation in its hour of need.
As the students connected the theme of freedom to Jewish nationhood and the rights of the Jewish people to their own country the instructor presented four quotes from Israel's Declaration of Independence, all of which relate to the rights of the Jewish people to pursue freedom. Each student was asked to select one of the quotes and discuss how the quote impacts on them personally. It was clear that the students had been moved by their class. One student commented that "the hardships that the Jews had to go through to achieve a nation were unimaginable. They never ceased to pray….after being away for so long they still wanted to be Jewish, still wanted their own country. The existence of Israel can never be taken for granted."